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Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

Auto FX GRFX Studio Pro: A Brief Review

I own Auto Fx Gen 2, which I utilize from time to time as a Photoshop plug in. I won’t say that I am a ‘power user’, nor do I own all the available modules that can be utilized within the software. I have used it mainly for its ability to apply light beams and weather effects, though it can do much more - however, for me those seemed to be the standout effects that were not easy accomplished by other software programs that I am familiar with.

Gen 2 is being ‘retired’, as it reportedly will not be functional with the new Mac operating system. I am glad to say that Gen 2 still seems to work perfectly on my Windows 10 / Photoshop CC 2019 system. However, while all support is going to be discontinued for this software, there is currently a sale on their new software version - GRFX Studio Pro - with an offer to try it free for 30 days.

So I decided to give the trial version a whirl. What follows is my opinion only……to me it felt like unfinished software.

First, the older Gen 2 software works on 16 bit images, but not as a smart filter. I expected this new rewritten upgrade to function as a smart filter, but, alas, it doesn’t. At least not yet, though the company says that they have such functionality planned for the future.

Secondly, another significant problem in my mind is that the plug in doesn’t ‘respect’ color spaces or profiles. Therefore, when you open an image in the plug in it looks visibly different than it does in Photoshop and yet the software offers color effects that one can apply. But how will they look back in Photoshop? The colors of the image visibly change when the effect is applied and it is brought back into Photoshop and into a color managed workflow. Well, that is a bit unsettling, especially when one can’t go back and readjust the effect as a smart filter.

Thirdly, I just find the older version easier to use. If I am uncertain as to the purpose of a certain slider or control I can just hover over it with my cursor and get helpful tool tips. Not so in GRFX Studio Pro….and some of the slider labels are not necessarily intuitive (though they are the same as the older Gen 2). Also, at least on my system, some of the drop down menus are a bit buggy. Though they sometimes drop down cleanly and hide what they ‘drop down’ over, more often than not they drop down without being ‘opaque’ and obscuring what is behind them, thereby making them difficult to read because the labels are interspersed with the words and controls they drop down over. By no means a deal breaker and perhaps limited to just my system…..hard to know.

Another little irritant is that midway through the trial Auto Fx released an update and included more free effects. It was then that I noted that there is no ‘search for updates’ button within the software that I could find!

Finally, I did not see a way to ‘port over’ any modules from Gen 2 to the newer software. I suspect that such modules will likely be offered for purchase in the future. Even better would be if they were free of charge as updates to the software, but perhaps that is hoping for too much. We shall see.

In this ‘day and age’ premium priced software should, in my opinion, be functional as a smart filter and respect color management. I can see upgrading to GRFX Studio Pro if Gen2 is software that you find very useful (and for some things it really is) and you utilize an operating system on which the older Gen2 will no longer function. As for me, am going to continue to use Gen 2 (which also doesn’t function as a smart filter etc) as it seems to work on my system. I might have purchased the software for the excellent light beam/ray generation functionality alone if I did not already own the Gen 2 software. However, given my situation, I have no plans to purchase GRFX Studio Pro unless and until it is improved considerably.

Monongahela River - Mount Washington

A few weekends ago I was invited to photograph sunrise by a relative who lives on Mount Washington, which overlooks the city of Pittsburgh. Though the city is famous for its three rivers, only one, the Monongahela, is seen in this shot. It joins the Allegheny River just off to the left of the frame, at which time the combined river is called.......geography quiz time.......the Ohio River!

However, out on that balcony this is not the scene that the eye could see. It was before sunrise and the group of trees framing the bottom right of the image were barely lit and looked like a black blob on any single photo that I took.The sky, though dark, was the brightest part of the scene, followed by the water, the lit buildings and then the dark trees and distant hills. This was a classic situation for using HDR.  

For those unfamiliar with HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography, it is a process whereby you take multiple shots of the same scene (preferably on a tripod to avoid movement since the images will all be blended into one) at different shutter speeds in order to allow optimal exposure for both the dark and light areas of the scene and then use software to blend them all into one image. This can be done in a way that gives a natural appearing result or a gritty, grungy, comic-like result. I tend to favor the end of the spectrum that is more natural appearing.

The Monongahela River and Downtown Pittsburgh  from Mt. Washington    © Howard Grill

The photo above was made by blending 5 photographs with shutter speeds ranging from 2 seconds (the exposure for the sky) to 30 seconds (the exposure required to allow detail to be seen in the patch of trees). The five images were merged into a 32 bit file by using the "Merge To HDR Pro" function in Lightroom. That 32 bit image was then processed in Adobe Camera Raw and finally converted to a 16 bit image. From that point, there were a few more routine adjustments made in Photoshop to yield the final result.

And there you have the city of Pittsburgh at sunrise. The blue color of the water is 'real' by the way. That is what it looks like when you photograph it when the sky is a deep blue before the sun is up. The deep blue sky is reflected in the water and imparts the color.

Time for the city to wake up!

Photoshop MSVCP110.dll Missing Error Message

By Howard Grill A note to my blog readers who use Photoshop and Nik Plug Ins and are now experiencing the error message upon starting Photoshop that says there was an error and that file MSVCP110.dll is missing.  Apparently a lot of people are getting this error message out of the blue.  Not to worry.....the fix is easy.

Apparently it is caused by a Nik update which was unannounced and 'forced' to the computer (which, by the way, now includes Nik Analog Effex) a few days back.  It has nothing to do with Photoshop so don't uninstall and reinstall.  It has to do with the update assuming that all computers already have the .dll in question installed.

The fix is very, very easy.  There are several ways, but the easiest is to download the Nik Collection trial from their website and install the trial version (should be v 1.1.0.5).  If you already have the Nik Collection on your computer the trial version will simply overwrite the old files and you will not have to reactivate or retype serial numbers etc.  It will just work.  This newest version has the .dll files in it and they will be installed with the Nik Software.

Got this info when I went searching because I was getting the error message.  I had the same error.  I have done the above myself and can verify it worked.

Anyway, hope this is helpful to some folks out there.